Infertility in the Workplace: A Silent Experience
Infertility impacts 1 in 8 people, making it a critical issue in any workplace. Many employees go through the journey of infertility treatment silently in the workplace, but having the tools and the confidence to speak to your employer can have a huge impact. For employers, providing an open and understanding environment for those dealing with infertility can have a substantial impact on the productivity and mental health of employees.
In this article, we answer the question: How can employees struggling with infertility navigate work schedules and employers’ lack of fertility coverage? And on the other hand, how can employers address the taboo surrounding pregnancy and fertility issues and begin to take steps towards providing support?
Juggling Appointments and Educating Your Employer
The commitment to fertility treatments can begin to impact your job when appointments become more frequent and time-sensitive. Some patients may feel like it is impossible to manage the stress of treatment while maintaining a somewhat normal work schedule. For this reason, honesty and helping to educate your employer or HR department is crucial.
Our friend Eloise, Founder of Fertility Help Hub, tells us that she once created an Excel sheet for her boss that included treatment details and appointment dates to illustrate the complexity of what she was juggling.
While you don’t always have to go into details, doing your part to explain your situation to an employer can be stress-relieving for you and helpful to others in the future who might be going through the same thing!
If you’re at the beginning stages of your journey and have questions about treatment coverage through your benefits package, here are some questions to ask your employer or HR team:
• Do we offer fertility treatment coverage?
• What are the limitations?
• Is there an annual or lifetime maximum?
• Is genetic testing included?
• Do we offer support groups?
When Honesty Isn’t an Option
In a survey conducted by Carrot Fertility, 23% of employees said that their employer would not understand what they are going through, and 30% of employees responded that they fear their job would be at risk if they were honest about treatment. If you resonate with these statistics, remember that your employer’s HR department is available to help you navigate this area.
Talking to HR about your dilemma or simply saying, “I have a medical situation,” can help. Some patients recommend putting this in writing to either your HR department, your boss or both. Explaining that medical appointments might cause you to arrive late at times and ensuring that you will do your best to make sure treatment does not interfere with your work can be enough information to help everyone involved be more understanding.
For employers, fostering a supportive and inclusive workplace starts with open communication. Support your employees by being flexible with work commitments and aiming to keep the line of communication open. Keep in mind that flexibility or accommodation for the medical needs of your employees can make a world of difference. It can be incredibly beneficial for company morale as well as employee retention.
Advice for Employers
Educate employees on the benefits that your organization provides. Ensuring that the employee has the access they need to your overall benefits package will assist them during the treatment process.
Here’s some advice on creating a culture that supports all of your employees’ needs:
• Acknowledge that when your employees come to work, they aren’t necessarily leaving “home” behind. If employees don’t feel that they have support, they will be reluctant to disclose their personal family plans.
• Recognize that infertility should be discussed openly. Normalizing the conversation around it can be an important step in moving out of the silence.
• If you’re in a position to influence workplace policies, suggest creating benefits such as time off pre-conception, counseling, and financial support to help employees navigate major challenges during treatment.